Hundreds of football fans at a homecoming game in northwest Iowa witnessed a horrific traffic accident that produced an explosion and sent two people to the hospital. It happened at about eight Friday night in Le Mars, during the halftime of the Le Mars Gehlen game against Woodbury Central. The marching band was performing when a motorcycle collided head-on with a pick-up on the street just beyond the field. The motorcycle slid beneath the pick-up, a fire was sparked and fans in the stands saw a ball of fire erupt. Officials believe it was the gas tank on the motorcycle that exploded.
Le Mars Fire Chief Dave Schipper was at the football game and quickly determined two people were injured. “The fortunate thing was we had an ambulance right at the football field so those people received medical treatment within minutes and, of course, the fire department responded to put the fire out,” Schipper says. The game was suspended for nearly a half an hour while emergency crews worked at the scene. The fire chief wasn’t just concerned about the two people directly involved. He worried Woodbury Central fans on the visiting sideline were too close to the fire.
“They got on the PA right away and told visiting folks to please exit the bleachers and go to the north side, leave everything there, just get out of those bleachers,” Schipper says. “We had the pick-up fully engulfed. We had gasoline on fire. We had explosions happening with the tires. We’ve got power lines right above there, some bigger trees and things like that, so we wanted those people to clear out of there for their safety.” Heavy smoke from the fire drifted across the playing field and over the bleachers on both sides of the field. Fire fighters used foam to smother the fire.
The accident remains under investigation, but the accident report from Le Mars Police had identified the drivers of both vehicles. Twenty-one-year-old Dillon McKinney of Le Mars was the driver of the motorcycle. He was taken to the hospital in Le Mars, then airlifted to a hospital in Sioux City for treatment of severe injuries. Twenty-three-year-old Samantha Priekset of Le Mars was a passenger on the motorcycle. She was treated at the hospital in Le Mars and has been released.
Surprisingly, the driver of the pick-up and his passenger were both able to escape without injury. The vehicle was completely destroyed by the fire.